The hardest part may actually be pronouncing the term. It is correctly pronounced (zhee-KLAY) although we more commonly hear it pronounced as (Gee-Clee). While we always get a good laugh out of it, you will immediately sound like a pro just by pronouncing the word correctly.
Giclée derives from the French word "gicleur" which means "nozzle" the verb form of which means "to squirt, spurt or spray." So it literally means to spray ink through a nozzle, which is exactly how giclée prints are produced in the simplest terms.
Jack Duganne originally coined the term in 1991 when high resolution inkjet printing was in its infancy. At that time high resolution DSLR cameras were merely a neat idea, but didn't exist in the physical world and dark room development was still the preferred method of reproduction for photographic work. Jack Duganne needed a way to market his new method of inkjet printing, so in an effort to generate buzz, giclée prints were born. However giclée printing has taken on a life of its own since the word got into the nomenclature of print shops the world over in the late 90's.
Today giclée prints are most commonly referred to when describing high resolution inkjet printing on canvas with archival quality pigment inks on large format inkjet printers with micro nozzles within the print heads. These inks are generally guaranteed to last for 100 years when coated with a UV, water and scratch resistant coating like those produced by Stretch and Staple in Seattle
Some people will only refer to giclée prints when discussing artwork reproductions and will exclude fine art photography from the mix. However, as the owner of a giclée print shop in Seattle that has been in the business since 2008 I can assure you the giclée process is exactly the same for both photography and artwork reproduction. In fact artwork reproduction is photography, it begins with a high resolution photograph of the artwork taken with a full frame DSLR camera.
Today a lot of canvas printing companies have transitioned to latex, solvent and dye sublimation printing in an effort to make cheap canvas prints, but as the old adage goes, you get what you pay for. These types of printing are cheaper, but they are not regarded as giclée prints and will produce different degrees of quality and are not guaranteed to last a lifetime like the canvas prints produced by Stretch and Staple. If quality is what you are after stick with giclée printing.
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